Genshiken was originally a manga written by Kio Shimoku. The series has become a success spawning a sequel, two anime, an OVA and a novel. Let’s take a look at the first anime.
There’s not an over-arching story in Genshiken. Rather, the episodes follow a club full of otaku. They do have a clear chronological order but most of them are stand alone episodes about something happening with the club. The episodes mix making fun of otaku with illustrating the fact that they’re ordinary people who are just over-zealous when it comes to their hobbies. The result is that it feels like Kio is affectionately poking fun at people he’s fond of or possibly even himself. Overall, the humour does work well for the situation and it manages to avoid moving into problematic territory even when it involves adult doujinshi. So it stays pretty tasteful and it generally avoids using references in the place of jokes. I do have one issue with the setup. There are long stretches that are just about the characters buying doujinshi or talking about anime with no humour thrown in. These scenes just drag and the characters aren’t interesting enough to keep them from being boring.
When I say that the characters aren’t interesting enough to carry the boring parts it’s because most of them are based on different otaku stereotypes. They aren’t well developed characters and none of them seem to have any interests that aren’t related to them being otaku. The one major exception is Saki. She gets involved with the group because her boyfriend is involved with it and she spends a lot of time hoping that it’ll end, except when it’s actually in danger of getting shut down and she steps up to defend it. She’s a character who speaks ill of the various otaku, except for her boyfriend, but is actually fond of them. It could work to make her interesting, but she’s more of a cliche tsundere character than actually developed in any significant way.
The art is actually very well done. The backgrounds are really lively, the art style that they use for the anime the characters watch is different enough from the one they regularly use, which serves to create a good contrast. A lot of attention went into making the events the characters attend seem massive and teeming with life and energy.
The voice acting is well done. Hiyama Nobuyuki and Yukino Satsuki both exaggerate quite a bit, but it clearly relates to their characters so it’s not much of an issue. The entire vocal cast does a good job of employing subtlety most of the time and using a lot of energy when appropriate.
The yuri factor is a 2/10. There are a few moments between Ohno and Saki that are a bit homoerotic, but there’s nothing substantial.
My final rating for Genshiken is a 7/10. It has some boring moments and the characters aren’t really compelling, but it does have a good sense of humour and great energy. It’s certainly worth a look.